A Patriot’s Guide to Ignoring the Russian Bounty Story

R.D. Zaharako
5 min readOct 15, 2020


I get it. You like the way Trump “owns the libs.” You revel in his unabashed, unpolished rhetoric, even if he twists the truth from time to time. You know, like all those times when he’s talking. You’re on board with his hardline immigration policies, which you see as “making America great again.” You believe he’s a highly successful businessman which means you’re willing to forgive a few major bankruptcies, just as you’re willing to overlook what the radical left unfairly calls “racism,” because, hell, everyone’s just too PC these days anyway, right?

I see in your Trump-loving, flag-waving, “America first” social media bio that you call yourself a “patriot” and “support the troops,” so I’m optimistic that we’ll see eye to eye on this Russian bounty story, even if it hasn’t been on your radar much lately.

As a Marine (1995–1999) and fellow patriot, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt by assuming you missed this June 26, 2020, New York Times article. It described how Russian military intelligence secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing US troops in Afghanistan.

Perhaps you only heard about the Russian bounties when Donald Trump tweeted: “Do people still not understand that this is all a made up Fake News Media Hoax started to slander me & the Republican Party. I was never briefed because any info that they may have had did not rise to that level.”

If you had heard about this story, it was probably a huge relief to be told that it was all just a hoax — and that Russia was most certainly not paying extremists to assassinate our troops.

Still, it had to pique your interest a little, didn’t it? We’re talking about the lives of 22 of our bravest soldiers and Marines here. I’m sure that you — as a loyal supporter of our troops — did a bit more research.

You probably started with the NYTimes article, reading about data intercepts of bank account payments from Russian military intelligence to Taliban-linked militants, interrogations from multiple militants captured in different regions, the discovery of $500,000 in a militant safe house, and the fleeing of a suspected Russian middleman who arranged the supposed payments after several safe houses were raided by coalition forces. It reminded you of a riveting spy novel. But with all those “anonymous sources,” it was already sounding like fake news, wasn’t it? Trump was right. Fake news media strikes again.

Just to be certain, you checked out several other conservative news sources. Surprisingly, Fox News and OANN — our two greatest military news sources — weren’t saying much. Maybe you managed to dig up some conflicting reports about how solid the intelligence was. Some stuff about how it couldn’t be completely confirmed.

Fox’s so-called “fair and balanced” news sources raised some good points: even if it were true, we also paid militants to kill Russian soldiers operating in Afghanistan during the 1980s. It was all in that Rambo III movie, so heck, maybe that’s just how it’s done over there. I reached out to Sly Stallone, but he was unwilling to comment. Either way, it didn’t sound like it was important enough for the president to be briefed on it. He wasn’t concerned about it, so why should I lose sleep over it?

You were reassured when you watched the Axios interview in which Trump explained, “It’s a fake issue.” Obviously if it were a big deal, Trump would’ve broached the matter with Vladimir Putin during their July phone call.

“I never discussed it with him,” Trump said. It must have been another hit piece by the “failing New York Times,” you thought. Besides, there was already enough to worry about with COVID-19 and The Big Ten not playing football. Talk about unpatriotic. No football!

After a few weeks, the “lame stream media” stopped bringing up the Russian bounty thing, so you put it out of your mind entirely. I don’t even really fault you for being apathetic. You’re a true patriot and one of the duties of being a true patriot is respecting and trusting the president. If Trump says there isn’t enough credible intelligence to even mention it to Putin, well, we just have to take his word for it. Sure, he bends the truth and on rare occasions lies through his teeth to get under the skin of the radical left. But there’s no way he would cover up for a foreign rival accused of masterminding the assassination of our troops. Right?

So if you’re like me, you probably never even bothered to learn the names of Marine Corporal Robert A. Hendriks, Sergeant Benjamin S. Hines, and Staff Sergeant Christopher K.A. Slutman, who were killed in Afghanistan on April 8, 2019, by a roadside bomb. Or Army Sgt. Cameron A. Meddock, Sgt. 1st Class Joshua “Zach” Beale, Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, Sgt. Joseph P. Collette, Spc. Miguel L. Holmes, Sgt. James G. Johnston, Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, Sgt. 1st Class Elliott J. Robbins, Sgt. Maj. James “Ryan” Sartor, Spc. Michael Isaiah Nance, Spc. Michael Isaiah Nance, Pfc. Brandon Jay Kreischer, Master Sgt. Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa, Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Ard, Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk Fuchigami Jr., Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle, Sgt. and 1st Class Michael J. Goble.

Who the heck could remember all of those names anyway. Anyway, I’m glad we had this little chat, patriot to patriot. I think I see the whole Russian bounty story more clearly now. It’s possible Donald Trump is right, and those who died in the line of duty are the “suckers and losers” of our generation. Perhaps their sacrifice was an idiotic and wasteful endeavor, so Putin was justified in having them killed. Or maybe being a patriot is harder than we thought and requires putting our country ahead of any one person or political party, regardless of the consequences.



R.D. Zaharako

U.S. Marine (95-99)| U of Texas grad | Clio Key Art Award-winning copywriter | Support my writing by becoming a Medium Member! https://bleedingmarine.medium.com